4

votes

Sugar Raises Cortisol, Sugar Lowers Cortisol

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 30, 2012 at 2:17 AM

After not eating all night long or not eating for 10-12 hours, ones cortisol/glucagon levels should be a little bit elevated, telling the liver to release glycogen into your blood.

But here is my issue, does consuming sugar (glucose-fructose) at this time lower or raise cortisol? Googling for answers reveals a whole host of opinions stating everything from 'sugar spikes your cortisol levels'(livestrong), to 'sucrose lowers cortisol'. So, which is it?

Bfddc0ab925c8ea0e0c2e87198514907

on March 14, 2013
at 12:33 PM

Are you low carb?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 04, 2012
at 07:22 PM

Mice aren't people. If a human-being eats sugar, pure or otherwise, they will have an insulin release. This isn't really a big deal but to suggest sugar doesn't raise insulin is bull.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 04, 2012
at 07:18 PM

As opposed to having free fatty acids and ketones feed your cells. Cortisol is not released to a large degree just because you are running on fat. Peat's a quack, not everyone has Hypothyroidism.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on January 30, 2012
at 10:01 PM

I'm less stressed out when I eat Lucky Charms, so that makes sense.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 30, 2012
at 07:56 PM

Cortisol lower during high carbohydrate diet *compared to high-protein diet*. That second link is palying great games with the statistics but really is not a resounding recommendation for eating cereals for breakfast - and in fairness the researchers themselves almost acknowledge that. In fact they note the independence of stress and cortisol levels. You'd have to be quite biased to presume anything from that.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 30, 2012
at 03:44 PM

"In the absence of fat, sucrose had no effect on plasma glucose or insulin." I'm curious, what was the effect of plasma glucose or insulin of fat in the absence of sucrose?

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 30, 2012
at 03:42 PM

Yes there's a hormonal response to ingesting food. However it seems that however careful you are, you're always going to contradicting one study or other if you try to manage those individual hormone levels directly.

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 30, 2012
at 03:02 PM

On second thought maybe sticking to protein and not fat is a good idea. "Fat was also found to be the critical stimulus for hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia in View the MathML source mice. In the absence of fat, sucrose had no effect on plasma glucose or insulin." http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/002604959590123X

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 30, 2012
at 02:56 PM

There is a direct mechanism that dietary sugar modulates cortisol. If eat sugar alone on a empty stomach and your insulin is out of whack hypoglycemia from sugar could contribute to cortisol production but eating some fat or protein with the meal fixes that problem.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 30, 2012
at 12:55 PM

That seems to be specifically regarding unhealthy individuals.

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7 Answers

3
Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

on January 30, 2012
at 01:07 PM

I could just post random bits of articles but I'll have a go at an answer instead. It's all relative. Depending on the situation, the healthiness of the individual, their typical diet etc. There's no absolute mechanistic link between dietary sugar and cortisol. There are correlations. If you have hypothyroidism then sugar for breakfast may help your condition. If your insulin is out of whack on the other hand, eating sugar may make things worse, contributing to chronically elevated cortisol.

You can either look at the very limited scope of specific studies, or you can look at the big picture. Trying to jump from one to the other rarely works that well.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 30, 2012
at 03:44 PM

"In the absence of fat, sucrose had no effect on plasma glucose or insulin." I'm curious, what was the effect of plasma glucose or insulin of fat in the absence of sucrose?

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 30, 2012
at 03:02 PM

On second thought maybe sticking to protein and not fat is a good idea. "Fat was also found to be the critical stimulus for hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia in View the MathML source mice. In the absence of fat, sucrose had no effect on plasma glucose or insulin." http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/002604959590123X

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 30, 2012
at 02:56 PM

There is a direct mechanism that dietary sugar modulates cortisol. If eat sugar alone on a empty stomach and your insulin is out of whack hypoglycemia from sugar could contribute to cortisol production but eating some fat or protein with the meal fixes that problem.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 30, 2012
at 03:42 PM

Yes there's a hormonal response to ingesting food. However it seems that however careful you are, you're always going to contradicting one study or other if you try to manage those individual hormone levels directly.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 04, 2012
at 07:22 PM

Mice aren't people. If a human-being eats sugar, pure or otherwise, they will have an insulin release. This isn't really a big deal but to suggest sugar doesn't raise insulin is bull.

2
Medium avatar

on January 30, 2012
at 07:25 PM

Cortisol lower during high carbohydrate diet: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0024320587900865

This one is particularly interesting - breakfast cereal consumers have lower intraday cortisol levels: http://biology.franklincollege.edu/bioweb/Biology/course_p/chem_sig/breakfast_cereal_stress.pdf presumably because they replete liver glycogen sooner than the other participants via sugar.

Here's a bonus if you're interested in muscle anabolism at all: http://www.springerlink.com/content/g0264q7233454184/

Medium avatar

(39831)

on January 30, 2012
at 10:01 PM

I'm less stressed out when I eat Lucky Charms, so that makes sense.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 30, 2012
at 07:56 PM

Cortisol lower during high carbohydrate diet *compared to high-protein diet*. That second link is palying great games with the statistics but really is not a resounding recommendation for eating cereals for breakfast - and in fairness the researchers themselves almost acknowledge that. In fact they note the independence of stress and cortisol levels. You'd have to be quite biased to presume anything from that.

2
E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 30, 2012
at 05:58 AM

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-2826.2001.00706.x/full

"sucrose ingestion normalizes feeding, energy balance and central corticotropin releasing factor expression in adrenalectomized (ADX) rats. Since this discovery, a diverse set of literature that supports this view of glucocorticoid feedback has been found."

http://jp.physoc.org/content/583/2/431.full

2
543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on January 30, 2012
at 04:06 AM

i give up, what's the answer :)

Peat seems to be of the view that sugar lowers cortisol, this is some of what he has to say (emphasis mine);

http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/hypothyroidism.shtml

Blood sugar falls at night, and the body relies on the glucose stored in the liver as glycogen for energy, and hypothyroid people store very little sugar. As a result, adrenalin and cortisol begin to rise almost as soon as a person goes to bed, and in hypothyroid people, they rise very high, with the adrenalin usually peaking around 1 or 2 A.M., and the cortisol peaking around dawn; the high cortisol raises blood sugar as morning approaches, and allows adrenalin to decline. Some people wake up during the adrenalin peak with a pounding heart, and have trouble getting back to sleep unless they eat something.

If the night-time stress is very high, the adrenalin will still be high until breakfast, increasing both temperature and pulse rate. The cortisol stimulates the breakdown of muscle tissue and its conversion to energy, so it is thermogenic, for some of the same reasons that food is thermogenic.

After eating breakfast, the cortisol (and adrenalin, if it stayed high despite the increased cortisol) will start returning to a more normal, lower level, as the blood sugar is sustained by food, instead of by the stress hormones. In some hypothyroid people, this is a good time to measure the temperature and pulse rate. In a normal person, both temperature and pulse rate rise after breakfast, but in very hypothyroid people either, or both, might fall.

And, http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/lactate.shtml

The features of the stress metabolism include increases of stress hormones, lactate, ammonia, free fatty acids, and fat synthesis, and a decrease in carbon dioxide. Factors that lower the stress hormones, increase carbon dioxide, and help to lower the circulating free fatty acids, lactate, and ammonia, include vitamin B1 (to increase CO2 and reduce lactate), niacinamide (to reduce free fatty acids), sugar (to reduce cortisol, adrenaline, and free fatty acids), salt (to lower adrenaline), thyroid hormone (to increase CO2). Vitamins D, K, B6 and biotin are also closely involved with carbon dioxide metabolism. Biotin deficiency can cause aerobic glycolysis with increased fat synthesis (Marshall, et al., 1976).

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 30, 2012
at 12:55 PM

That seems to be specifically regarding unhealthy individuals.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 04, 2012
at 07:18 PM

As opposed to having free fatty acids and ketones feed your cells. Cortisol is not released to a large degree just because you are running on fat. Peat's a quack, not everyone has Hypothyroidism.

0
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on March 14, 2013
at 10:41 PM

Cortisol is used to signal gluconeogenesis (literally new glucose creation.) Because of this, if you are not yet properly adapted to thrive on a high fat, low carb diet, when you go low carb, you raise your cortisol.

This isn't, as normal function, because you are actually stressed, but because evolution is a bunch of random hacks that worked, sometimes very well, sometimes elegantly, and happened to have a mechanism at hand to signal "Hey, blood sugar is low, liver, we'll need to catabolize some muscle tissue, so you can go make some glucose via gluconeogenesis."

So, yes, if you eat enough carbs to support all your long nerve cells, and red blood cells, you don't need to trigger cortisol.

Now cortisol does have some negative effects, for one, it turns off your immune system, for another it catabolizes muscle tissue to get at protein. This is not normally an issue. Acute stress isn't harmful, and through hormesis is actually quite positive. Chronic cortisol, is a big problem however and can lead to adrenal exhaustion.

Insulin is an anabolic hormone, it causes fat, liver, and muscle cells to absorb all nutrients - this is based on blood sugar. Too high, and you'll signal insulin.

You want neither chronic insulin (type two diabetes), nor chronic cortisol (Cushing's Disease). Like anything else, the dose makes the poison. Nor do you want extremely low insulin levels (type 1 diabetes), or extremely low cortisol (Addison's Disease).

Ideally, you want to have low insulin levels and low cortisol levels most of the time, with occasional spikes for each. (i.e. big ass workout/HIIT/outrunning a sabre-tooth tiger; fasting followed by say, carb back loading/carb night - feasting.)

0
275b803a0978d97cdc0c7ace9d757927

on March 14, 2013
at 09:40 AM

Cortisol is a nasty, nasty, nasty word for me. I have had Cushing's Disease for years due to an ACTH-producing pituitary tumor that increased my cortisol levels to astronomical levels. Before discovering Cushing's as the one to blame for my health issues (100+ pounds weight gain, insulin resistance, fatigue, thinning hair, increased body hair, acne, migraines, weakness, dusrupted sleep) I tried every diet under the sun. The Zone, Atkins, Weight Watchers, vegetarianism, etc. None of them helped. In fact, I packed on another 17 pounds doing Weight Watchers. Now that I've had two brain surgeries and have become well-versed in all things cortisol, I can tell you the ONLY thing that had helped me lose weight and get my life back is Paleo. I'm still trying to understand the connection and why my body likes this lifestyle so much vs. vegetarianism. Thanks to Paleo (and removal of my problem pituitary gland, high cortisol levels and corrected levels of my other missing pituitary hormones), I have lost 50 of the 100 pounds I gained while I was sick. I am Paleo for life!

Bfddc0ab925c8ea0e0c2e87198514907

on March 14, 2013
at 12:33 PM

Are you low carb?

0
D4d83e7981ca572aaaa19fc620bb54f1

(467)

on January 30, 2012
at 09:37 PM

I don't know how related this is, but I was reading about the 7 stages for adrenal exhaustion due to stress (not sugar), and thought it was interesting to read that high or low cortisol can be a good/bad sign depending on which stage you're at:

http://www.chronicfatigue.org/ASI%20Normal.html

So maybe it could also be that the effect of sugar on cortisol depends on which stage you're at?

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